Timely hitting and consistent pitching highlighted three entertaining games in New York. Now, the Phillies travel to Kansas City to face the lowly Royals and hope the bubble doesn’t burst.
The Phillies finally fulfilled a promise that was made this winter, that starting pitching would carry them, and great hitting would separate them. Each team’s starters departed the same inning with similar lines (Jamie Moyer and Tom Glavine actually finished with almost identical marks). Then it became a matter of which Mets’ reliever the Phillies would blow apart, and which Phils’ reliever would hold the fort. Last night Billy Wagner and Scott Schoeneweis gave it up for New York, much of the damage coming off the bat of Pat Burrell. Rookie Mike Zagurski earned his first career victory, and Antonio Alfonseca notched his third-consecutive save. That part wasn’t foretold.
As far as the standings are concerned, it was the most meaningful series to date. The Phillies climbed three spots on the Mets and Braves, losers of four and three-straight. The Phillies stand 31-29 and are hoping to leave .500 in the dust. It’s not the first time they’ve had the chance. They’ll have an excellent opportunity to do it again, this time in Kansas City, where they face at team that is inferior to them in every way.
If you believe that previous statement makes this some kind of automatic for the Phils, you’re a complete stranger to Phillies baseball. The fact is the Phils are sending two struggling pitchers to the mound tonight and tomorrow, pitchers who can barely make it through six innings. Despite recent heroics, the bullpen is still short-handed and weak. It’s a strange environment, and now that they’ve reasserted themselves by sweeping the Mets, the pressure returns. Meanwhile, the Royals have nothing to lose.
Opponents are hitting .303 against Freddy Garcia (1-4, 5.11 ERA), and although he’s faced the Royals plenty, he’s been awful against them. He’s 8-9 with a 5.66 ERA in 21 starts against Kansas City, including a 4-5 record with a 6.65 ERA in 11 road games.
Scott Elarton (1-2, 7.36 ERA) gets the ball for the Royals. Game time is 8:05 p.m.
Rumor: Paul Hagen reports the Phillies are scouting the Rangers, with thoughts that it could be to scope relievers Eric Gagne, Joaquin Benoit and Akinori Otsuka.
Draft babble: I'm no draftnik, but I generally like the direction the Phillies went yesterday, taking standout Rice left-hander Joe Savery with the first pick and selecting position talent over the next few rounds. With Savery, who played four years with a premier college program, there's more concern about his delivery than health, and I believe the Phillies are equipped to correct that. From what I've read, the 21-year-old added velocity after the surgery, which was considered minor.
Say what you want about the Phillies development staff, but they seem to have a handle on left-handed pitching. They know what works and what doesn't. Cole Hamels is a stud. Mike Zagurski went from Class-A to the majors after a change in delivery. J.A. Happ rose quickly last season. If Savery can make a smooth transition to the pros, it won't be long before he reaches the majors.
The Phillies went with position talent the next few picks. I didn't seen many knocks against these players as being too raw. The Phillies have good percentages when they avoid Greg Golson projects. There didn't seem to be many defensive questions here, either. Scott Rolen, Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard were all taken from this part of the draft. You figure if only one of them works, you've got yourself a cornerstone player.
There's absolutely no reason to be down on what the Phillies did on draft day. Give it a year or two.